Small Farm Outreach Program
The Small Farm Outreach Program, which is part of Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University, aims to encourage and assist limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently, to participate in agricultural programs and improve their overall farm management skills. The SFOP provides outreach and assistance activities in production management, financial management, marketing, available USDA farm programs and other areas to increase farm profitability and promote sustainability. Currently, the program provides educational programming in approximately 64 Virginia counties, which have the highest concentrations of limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in the state.
Participation in the program is voluntary. Most educational programs are offered free of charge, and are open to farmers and individuals who are interested in receiving outreach and technical assistance. Farmers are recruited through referrals from FSA, community leaders, other farmers, phone calls, home/farm visits, direct mailing of brochures, and farm-related meetings.
Educational Programs Offered
Farm Business Management: Training and technical assistance are provided in all areas of business management which include: record keeping and analysis, farm planning, enterprise budgeting, financial management, marketing, and economics of alternative enterprises.
Agriculture Risk Management: Educational programming teaches farmers effective management strategies that will reduce or prevent some of the many risks they face. Risk Management education and training covers five major areas of risk (production, marketing, financial, legal and human resources) and is provided via workshops, group meetings, one-on-one farm visits, newsletters, fact sheets and field days.
Loan and Grant Application Assistance: The program assists farmers in preparing applications for FSA direct and guaranteed loans. Assistance is also provided to beginning and minority farmers in preparing applications for obtaining farm ownership and operating loans, along with the required borrower training for these types of loans for FSA. Assistance is also provide for grant applications though Rural Development’s Renewable Energy for America (REAP)-grant and loan guarantee program, Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program and Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program.
Outreach: Another important aspect of the program is outreach. Through outreach efforts, farmers are provided information and technical assistance to ensure that they have access to all services available through USDA programs. Virginia State University collaborates with USDA agencies to achieve this goal. Predominantly minority community organizations, including religious organizations and key community leaders, are also utilized to reach socially disadvantaged farmers.
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